Context:

  • The Union home ministry, considers to make changes to the Indian Penal Code to make attacks which are racial in nature and are likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of religious or racial groups as “non-bailable’’ offences with a minimum three year jail term.

Ethnic relations in India:

  • Ethnic relations in Indiahave historically been complex.
  • “Ethnic relations” refers to attitudes and behaviors toward people of other ethnicities or races.
  • India is extremely diverse ethnically, with more than 2,000 different ethnic groups.
  • Furthermore, within India, there is also significant diversity within regions, and almost every province has its own distinct mixture of ethnicity, traditions, and culture.
  • Throughout the history of India, ethnic relations have been both constructive and destructive.

Examples of constructive relations are as follow:

  • People of different religions and castes take part in each other’s festivals and celebrations.
  • At times, people of one religion have provided protection an event held by individuals of another faith.
  • Inter-caste marriages occur, and have helped to decrease inter-caste discrimination.
  • Certain state governments now encourage inter-caste or inter-faith marriages by providing incentives.
  • People visit the shrines of other religions. For example:
  • Some Hindus visit Ajmer Dargah, an Islamic shrine; meanwhile, some Muslims visit the Hindu Sabarimala temple and Vavar shrine.

Examples of destructive relations are as follows:

Attacks on Africans:

  • The recent attacks on Africans have raised concerns about the safety of foreigners in India and an alarming trend of hate crimes and racism in the country. For example:
  • On Monday, March 27, 2017 hundreds of people in New Delhi went on a mob rampage and attacked several African students.
  • It was not the first time that Africans living India have faced brutal attacks. Experts say these incidents reflect on the growing xenophobia and a deep-rooted racism in Indian society against “dark-skinned” people.
  • Over the years India, an attractive destination for Africans for higher studies and medical tourism, has been wooing Africa for business opportunities.
  • But these attacks will affect bilateral ties adversely.
  • It will damage recent Indian initiatives to promote people-to-people contact under India-Africa forum summit initiatives.

Discrimination against North-East Indians:

  • In recent years there have been many reports of discrimination against people from North-East India.
  • Young people from the northeast, about 15,000 a year, have been making their way to the capital, fleeing the insurgencies and looking for better education and work opportunities.
  • It isn’t just physical differences that make people from the northeast stand out in a big city but the fact that the northeast is geographically distinct from the rest of the country, connected to it by just a narrow strip of land known as the Siliguri Corridor.

Anti-discriminatory laws that exist in India: 

Racism laws deal with any discrimination against anyone on the basis of race. Any words, signs attempting to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, or indulging in any activity intended to use criminal force or violence against a particular race shall make the person indulging in such activity liable.

  • According to the Right to equality of the Constitution of India there shouldn’t be any discrimination on basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth etc.
  • Article 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of Constitution of India deals with right to equality.
  • There are few laws which have been passed by Indian legislature dealing with anti-discrimination. These include:
  • Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • There is also Hindu Succession Act, 1956 under which daughters are given equal inheritance rights, now.
  • Recently in July, 2017 the Home Ministry has proposed to amend two provisions in the IPC, that is, Section 153A and Section 509A.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram have given their assent to the proposed law.
  • Three Union Territories, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Lakshwadee have also agreed to the Centre’s proposal.

Suggestions: the need for a strict anti-discriminatory law:

  • In the absence of an anti-discrimination code, there is no comprehensive statutory definition of discrimination that takes into account different manifestations of discrimination and its impact.
  • India’s external affairs and home ministries need to make concerted efforts to sensitise the police and the public at large about how racism contradicts the nation’s past and present ideals.
  • One way to do this is to raise awareness about how Indians and people of Indian origin are able to live peacefully and prosper in African countries and other parts of the world.
  • In addition, the external affairs ministry should have a department dedicated to addressing human rights violations against foreigners in the country.
  • Indian NGOs also have a role to play.
  • They can lead community awareness programmes against racism and push for adequate legislation, drawing on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (2001).
  • As most Africans in India are students, the human resources ministry needs to hold anti-racism campaigns on university campuses.
  • Educational institutions in India should be told about the importance of scholarship programmes for Africans.
  • Efforts should also be made to educate Indian students about African countries.
  • Anti-racism sentiments should be discussed at the commencement of every India-Africa summit and should be formalised in treaties.
  • Societies do not change on their own, we need to create conditions for this change, which includes identifying groups and areas that are perpetrating these kind of hate attacks.

 

 

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